By: George Gurdjieff
March 14, 2023

AI-assisted illustration by HILOBROW

Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson (dictated 1924–1927, and thus a work of Radium Age proto-sf, although it wouldn’t see publication until after the author’s death in 1949) is the first section of a never-completed magnum opus to be titled All and Everything. Gurdjieff would later explain that through this work he intended “to destroy, mercilessly, without any compromises whatsoever, in the mentation and feelings of the reader, the beliefs and views, by centuries rooted in him, about everything existing in the world.” HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize a selected excerpt from Beelzebub’s Tales here at HILOBROW.

ALL INSTALLMENTS: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10.


CHAPTER III: The cause of a delay in the falling of the Karnak (cont.)

When the captain had gone, Hassein suddenly sprang to his feet and began to dance and clap his hands, shouting “Oh, I’m glad, I’m glad, I’m glad about this!”

Beelzebub looked with affection on these joyful manifestations of his favorite, but old Ahoon could not restrain himself and, shaking his head reproachfully muttered half to himself that the boy was a growing “egoist.”

Hearing what Ahoon had called him, Hassein stopped in front of him and with a mischievous glance said:

“Don’t be angry with me, dear Ahoon. The reason for my joy is not egoism but only this happy coincidence. You heard him, didn’t you? My beloved grandfather didn’t only decide to make a stop but also promised the captain to talk with him.

“And you know very well that my grandfather’s talks always lead to stories of places where he has been, and you know how wonderfully he tells his stories, and how much new and interesting information is ‘crystallized’ in our presences through these tales.

“Where is the egoism? Hasn’t he, of his own free will, after weighing with his wise Reason all the circumstances of this unforeseen event, decided to make a stop, which evidently doesn’t upset his plans too much?

“It seems to me that my dear grandfather has no reason to hurry. Everything he needs for his rest and comfort is here on the Karnak, and here also are many who love him and whom he loves.

“Didn’t he just say that we must not oppose forces higher than our own, adding that not only should we not oppose them but should even submit to them and accept all their results with reverence, at the same time praising and glorifying the marvelous and providential works of our Lord Creator?

“I’m glad, not because of the mishap, but because this unforeseen event from Above enables us to listen once more to the tales of my dear grandfather. Is it my fault that the circumstances have turned out to be so desirable and happy for me?

“No, dear Ahoon, you shouldn’t scold me, but should even join me in expressing gratitude to the Source of all beneficent results.”


All this time Beelzebub had been listening attentively and with a smile to the chatter of his favorite, and when Hassein had finished, said “You are right, dear Hassein, and for being right, even before the captain returns I shall tell you anything you like.”

Upon hearing this, the boy at once ran and sat at Beelzebub’s feet and, after thinking a little, said:

“Dear Grandfather, you have already told me so much about the solar system where you spent so many years that by now I could probably go on, by my own logic, to describe in detail the nature of that peculiar corner of our Universe.

“But I am curious to know whether three-brained beings dwell on the planets of that solar system, and whether ‘higher being-bodies’ are coated in them. This is what I should like you to tell me about,” said Hassein, looking up affectionately at his grandfather.

“Yes,” replied Beelzebub, “three-brained beings dwell on almost all planets of that solar system also, and higher being-bodies can be coated in almost all of them.

“Higher being-bodies or, as they are called on some planets of that solar system, ‘souls,’ are coated in three-brained beings inhabiting all the planets except those before reaching which the emanations of our Most Holy Sun Absolute, through repeated deflections, have gradually lost the fullness of their strength and no longer contain the vivifying power needed for coating higher being-bodies.

“Of course, my boy, on each planet of that solar system the planetary bodies of the three-brained beings are coated and take on an exterior form corresponding to the nature of that planet, adapting to it in every detail.

“On the planet Mars, for instance, where we were exiled, the three-brained beings are coated with a planetary body having a form — how shall I tell you? — like a ‘karoona,’ that is to say, they have a long broad trunk, amply provided with fat, and a head with enormous protruding and shining eyes. On the back of this huge planetary body of theirs are two large wings, and on the underside two comparatively small feet with very strong claws.

‘Almost the entire strength of this huge planetary body is adapted by nature to generate energy for their eyes and their wings.

‘As a result, the three-brained beings breeding on that planet can see freely everywhere, however great the ‘kldatsakhti,’* and can move about not only on the planet but also in its atmosphere, and occasionally some of them even manage to travel beyond its limits.


* “Kldatsakhti” means “darkness.”


RADIUM AGE PROTO-SF: “Radium Age” is Josh Glenn’s name for the nascent sf genre’s c. 1900–1935 era, a period which saw the discovery of radioactivity, i.e., the revelation that matter itself is constantly in movement — a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. More info here.

SERIALIZED BY HILOBOOKS: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague | Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”) | Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt | H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook | Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins | William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land | J.D. Beresford’s Goslings | E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man | Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage | Muriel Jaeger’s The Man With Six Senses | Jack London’s “The Red One” | Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D. | Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist | W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet” | Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Men | Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland | Sax Rohmer’s “The Zayat Kiss” | Eimar O’Duffy’s King Goshawk and the Birds | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince | Morley Roberts’s The Fugitives | Helen MacInnes’s The Unconquerable | Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows | William Haggard’s The High Wire | Hammond Innes’s Air Bridge | James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen | John Buchan’s “No Man’s Land” | John Russell’s “The Fourth Man” | E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” | John Buchan’s Huntingtower | Arthur Conan Doyle’s When the World Screamed | Victor Bridges’ A Rogue By Compulsion | Jack London’s The Iron Heel | H. De Vere Stacpoole’s The Man Who Lost Himself | P.G. Wodehouse’s Leave It to Psmith | Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” | Houdini and Lovecraft’s “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs” | Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Sussex Vampire” | Francis Stevens’s “Friend Island” | George C. Wallis’s “The Last Days of Earth” | Frank L. Pollock’s “Finis” | A. Merritt’s The Moon Pool | E. Nesbit’s “The Third Drug” | George Allan England’s “The Thing from — ‘Outside'” | Booth Tarkington’s “The Veiled Feminists of Atlantis” | H.G. Wells’s “The Land Ironclads” | J.D. Beresford’s The Hampdenshire Wonder | Valery Bryusov’s “The Republic of the Southern Cross” | Algernon Blackwood’s “A Victim of Higher Space” | A. Merritt’s “The People of the Pit” | Max Brand’s The Untamed | Julian Huxley’s “The Tissue-Culture King” | Clare Winger Harris’s “A Runaway World” | Francis Stevens’s “Thomas Dunbar” | George Gurdjieff’s “Beelzebub’s Tales” | Robert W. Chambers’s “The Harbor-Master”.